Brackendale Eagle Festival

Brackendale Eagle Festival

This January we celebrate the 34th annual Brackendale Eagle Festival and Count 2020. The annual Bald Eagle Count is held on the first Sunday in January. The month-long festival offers a lineup of concerts, group tours, art shows and lecture series. The events calendar for 2020 should be online soon at Brackendale Art Gallery.

Brackendale has become known as the World Eagle Capital. In 1994 the world record count of 3,769 wintering American Bald Eagles was recorded. Each year, the Brackendale Winter Eagle Count is carried out by trained volunteers. During the count day, visitors are welcome to go into the park and view the eagles, and enjoy the amenities of the Brackendale Art Gallery, as the count results are returned and tallied throughout the day.

The 2019 – 2020 EagleWatch program runs from November 9 through January. Each year volunteer interpreters share their knowledge and love of bald eagles with people from around the world. Eagle Run dike is an accessible site, with a ramp on the south end.

Half day outings are offered by Squamish Rafting Company, from October through April. Anyone interested in eagle watching and the spawning salmon that attract the eagles to the river is sure to enjoy the Wilderness & Eagle Viewing Float. A hearty restaurant-style bowl of chilli is served, with hot beverages.

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Brackendale Eagle Count is Up

Brackendale Eagle Count is Up

From an impressive count of over one thousand in 2014, to less than half that in 2016, the bald eagle count in Brackendale, British Columbia left many watchers concerned over the birds’ fate; but it’s good news this year, as the 2017 numbers jumped from a concerning 411 to 698, mainly thanks to the increase in wild salmon availability in the region.

Every year, over Christmas and during January, bird watchers converge on both Brackendale and Whistler to enjoy the migration of various bird species and to help count both the number of birds and the number of different species for scientific records. Occasionally, twitchers are treated to a rare find, such as white ptarmigan, bit it’s mostly the majestic, strong and beautiful bald eagle they come to see, fishing for salmon and stocking up on their energy reserves before continuing their migration.

Counting eagles and their avian counterparts is a mid-winter activity that takes place in various locations across North America each year, adding to the store of scientific knowledge about bird migration patterns and giving outdoor enthusiasts an exciting, fun and interesting activity to engage in during the frozen season. Even the harshest conditions don’t deter the really determined; this year, despite difficult conditions and several areas being completely inaccessible, there were several visitors to Upper Squamish – the site of the highest number of eagles spotted at 117 – who had to trek in by snowshoe or ski, rather than by car as in previous years. Nonetheless, the count went on and visitors enjoyed an adventurous brush with wild nature.

Squamish is one of the more popular destinations for visitors interested in joining the count, thanks to its central location, easy accessibility, and reasonable and plentiful accommodation options. Renowned for its natural beauty, and situated between Howe Sound and the foot of Mount Garibaldi, Squamish offers a beautiful and tranquil setting in which to pass some holiday time over winter.

While the festival runs from around Christmas right through to the end of January, the best times to visit are generally over the end of December and beginning of January, while the count is being taken. Remember to bring along a good set of binoculars, an up-to-date bird guide for identification – the eagles aren’t the only birds around – and your camera to document your sightings. Hiking or climbing to the viewing spots and strategically placed feeders can be quite strenuous activity, so don’t neglect to bring along some lightweight snacks for energy and enough water to rehydrate. Once at your spot, you will find yourself settling down for long periods, so make sure you have enough layered clothing to keep warm while not moving around. You may also want to bring a packed lunch.

The Brackendale Eagle Festival, which runs until the end of January, is only one of the activities available to winter visitors to Squamish, who can take advantage of the on average 26cm to 31cm snowfall during December and January, respectively, to explore the excellent Nordic Skiing terrain, join the snowshoeing at the summit of the Sea to Sky Gondola or take part in any number of winter sports and activities like snowmobiling, backcountry skiing and boarding, tubing and tobogganing and various others.

For those who prefer their vacation time in the warm, Squamish is an ideal destination, thanks to its prime location. The area is home to five provincial parks and the town boasts a variety of museums and sight-seeing activities. Howe Sound and Cat Lake provide hundreds of opportunities for water-sports activities in the summer, including kayaking, whitewater rafting, SCUBA diving, boating and sailing, while the surrounding parks and mountains offer unparalleled rock climbing, hiking, horseback riding, fishing and more. Hiking alone can keep visitors occupied for several days, with a massive network of hiking trails winding through the various provincial parks, and with challenging hikes like the Stawamus Chief on offer. There’s even the Squamish Valley Golf Club for those looking to walk the greens.

It’s not just physical activities, either, with a range of brewery tours, the Squamish Farmers’ Market, and various delightful restaurants to enjoy and wind down after a busy, fun and exciting day out in the natural wilds of Squamish.

8 Essential Tips to Planning a Fantastic Day of Eagle Watching

8 Essential Tips to Planning a Fantastic Day of Eagle Watching

The eagle has always been viewed as a majestic, impressive bird. This is in part due to their sheer size and wingspan (an average of 5-7 feet) but also due to their hunting efficiency, strength, fierce look, and their amazing ability to spot prey in waters below (which also inspired the phrase “eagle eye”).

The ability to get right up close, and shoot photos of these magnificent birds in their natural habitat, draws throngs of visitors to Squamish each year. The best place in all of Canada for people to witness a large gathering of these magnificent birds is the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park.

The Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park is situated in the Squamish River watershed, surrounded by the gorgeous Coast Mountains. As of 1994, the eagle count in Squamish was 3,769; the world record count. The area is a perfect habitat, providing all these beautiful birds need for roosting, perching and feeding. The Squamish, Cheakamus and Mamquam Rivers boast prolific salmon runs, which attract eagles from the Pacific Northwest during the winter months.

We’ve compiled the following 8 essential tips, for those who plan on visiting the park for a day of eagle watching :

1. Scheduling Around Peak Viewing Times

Although the eagles are typically present between mid-November and mid-February of each year, the “peak” viewing time is between mid-December and mid-February. This is when significant numbers of eagles are present, and watchers are much more likely to view large concentrations of birds.

2. Checking the Weather Can Ensure a Good Trip

While it’s important to check the weather to ensure that eagle-viewing doesn’t get interrupted by rain, it’s also important to determine whether any storms have occurred within the past week or two. This is because rain and storms often wash salmon out of the main viewing area, resulting in fewer eagles being present there. When this happens, viewers may be able to spot a few birds but will be unable to see the majestic sight of large clusters of birds gathered together.

3. Visit the Viewing Areas in the Morning

Another great way to ensure that plenty of eagles are out and about during a viewing trip is to visit in the morning. Although eagles can be present at all times of the day, as it gets closer to sunset, the eagles will head toward their nests. While sunset can be a magical time to see these beautiful birds, it’s not a time of day that is conducive to large gatherings.

4. Locating the Main Viewing Area

While it is possible to see eagles throughout the Brackendale Park area, the main viewing area has telescopes, benches, an interpretive display with the eagles and their life cycles, and during certain times, volunteers that will assist visitors in spotting eagles. This main viewing area is located on the municipal dyke, which is across from the Easter Seal Camp on Government Road. To get there, visitors take Mamquam Road from Highway 99 and drive north on Government Road.

5. Take a High-Quality Camera

Those who visit and get a chance to see gatherings of eagles understand why it’s such a breathtaking sight. It’s not a memory they’re going to want to forget. A high-quality camera with a good zoom lens will allow visitors to capture the birds so they can enjoy them over and over again, and share the sights with friends and family.

6. Keeping Energy Up with Food and Drink

Visitors shouldn’t bring food or drink into the viewing area, but for a day of eagle viewing, it’s important to keep energy up. Water bottles can be kept in vehicles and accessed easily as needed. Non-perishable foods are essential for quick snacks during breaks between viewing. Things like protein bars, crackers, and fruits are great ways to keep energy at a high. Those who crave a full meal can find one at the Watershed Grille, located right next to the eagle viewing area. The menu features items like the local fish and chips, the Blue Lips Steamed Mussels served in a white wine and garlic sauce, the Wild Sockeye Salmon Burger with wasabi mayonnaise and the Salmon and Prawn Pasta in tomato sauce. It’s also a great way to thaw out a bit and warm up after watching eagles for a while.

7. Show Up Early for Great Parking

Those who show up earlier are much more likely to find great parking in designated areas. As the day goes on (and especially between 11am and 4pm), the parking areas tend to fill up quickly. Parking on the shoulder is prohibited, and only customers may park in the lots of nearby businesses.

8. Stay Warm

While most people will think to bring a coat, hat and the other basic essentials, there are a few things that can help visitors to the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park stay warm. Gloves are a must, especially for those who will be trying to get pictures of the eagles. Hand warmers are a great accessory and can be placed in pockets for a quick warm-up between photo sessions. Boots are also an essential, but traipsing around the park (which can often be muddy and wet) can still lead to cold feet. Visitors can wear an extra pair of socks to keep their feet warm, or bring an extra pair to change after viewing the eagles for a significant amount of time.

Being able to witness the beauty of gatherings of gold eagles and bald eagles is such a treat, and it’s even better to be able to capture a few magnificent pictures. Those who plan to visit the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park soon can ensure a fantastic day and an enjoyable experience by visiting at the right times and bringing along all the essentials to maintain comfort and happiness.

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Squamish Eagle Watching

Squamish Eagle Watching

Bald eagle, Brackendale, BCOne of Squamish’s top attractions is the bald eagle. The bald eagle is found over most of North America. British Columbia is home to about 20,000 bald eagles, with the greatest stronghold on the northwest coast. They flourish here largely due to the salmon. Dead or dying fish are an important food source for the Brackendale eagles that visit the area every year. Nearly 20% of British Columbia’s eagle population wintered in Brackendale in 1994.

Eagles can be viewed from the Tenderfoot Creek Fish hatchery in the Cheakamus Valley down to the Squamish Estuary near downtown Squamish. The Brackendale eagles begin arriving in mid November and leave mid February. The largest concentration can be viewed from late December through January. The Eagle Viewing Dyke, across from the Easter Seal Camp, is the most popular eagle viewing point.

Need a place to stay while visiting Squamish and Brackendale for eagle viewing? Click here for a listing of Squamish inns, Squamish hotels and Squamish motels. For additional information on Brackendale’s bald eagles visit the Brackendale Art Gallery website.